We have been an industrious lot – at least when it comes to creating material and infrastructure – with one study suggesting that humans have created 30 trillion tons of ‘technosphere’.
University of Leicester researchers led a team of geologists to estimate how much of stuff we have created – houses, factories and farms to airplanes, rockets, computer systems, tablets, smartphones and CDs, to the waste in landfills and spoil heaps – to sustain themselves and it turns out that the weight of all that stuff is an enormous 30 trillion tons or more than 50 kilos of weight on each square metre of Earth’s surface.
Scientists say that the ‘technosphere’ may have its roots in biosphere, but over time the it has taken a massive form and has been garnering a lot of weight and it has become a phenomenon of its own. Further, it is having a parasitic effect on the biosphere – like all human activities have on our planet.
According to the study published in journal The Anthropocene Review, humans have been having a huge impact on the planet through their activities and that’s where the Anthropocene concept has its roots in. It is an epoch that highlights the impact humans have made to the planet and it provides an understanding of how we have greatly changed the planet ever since our species started dominating.
Professor Mark Williams at the University of Leicester says “Compared with the biosphere, though, it is remarkably poor at recycling its own materials, as our burgeoning landfill sites show. This might be a barrier to its further success — or halt it altogether.”
The researchers believe the technosphere is some measure of the extent to which we have reshaped our planet. It’s not just the mass that is staggering, it is the massive amounts of small objects that we have been and are leaving behind – many of which have already been entombed in the strata. Authors of the study say that these material could effectively be preserved into the distant geological future as ‘technofossils’ that will help characterize and date the Anthropocene.
If technofossils were to be classified as palaeontologists classify normal fossils – based on their shape, form and texture — the study suggests that the number of individual types of ‘technofossil’ now on the planet likely reaches a billion or more — thus far outnumbering the numbers of biotic species now living.
The research suggests the technosphere is another measure of the extraordinary human-driven changes that are affecting the Earth. While the technosphere is geologically young, it is evolving with furious speed, and it has already left a deep imprint on our planet.